|Arturia: Musicians "Blown Away" by TigerSHARC-Based Synthesizer|
Based in Grenoble, France, Arturia is a global leader in the computer musical instrument market place, specializing in the development of music software for both the professional and amateur musician. The company often partners with research institutions, such as IRCAM France, to develop leading-edge musical instruments and software, the results of which have been used in the production of numerous hit records and Hollywood sound tracks. Arturia has spent thousands of hours developing audio algorithms that precisely replicate, or "model," the dozens of modules and interactions that define the sound of several vintage analog synthesizers. The company's software has historically run on personal computers, modeling analog circuits to give musicians sounds and effects for recording or for live performances.
Arturia's sonic recreations are so astounding that the company even received accolades from the distinguished Robert A. Moog, inventor of Moog synthesizers, who said that Moog Music was happy to lend its name to Arturia's products (Moog Modular V, minimoog V). Arturia also received acclaim from celebrated rock and jazz musicians such as Chris Pitman from Guns N' Roses, who said he was "blown away" when he got his hands on one of the products, and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, who said that right out of the box, he could "immediately recall the golden years of early analog synths."
As a next step in the evolution of its product line, Arturia wanted to offer a new palette of sounds to contemporary musicians via a hardware-based synthesizer. The new product would enable musicians to create a wider variety of synthesizer structures, with more than 40 modules excerpted from classic synthesizers. The new product would offer a "phat," warm sound, accessible through an intuitive user interface. Plus, a hardware-based system could offload a studio musician's computer, freeing it for other tasks such as post-production.
In order to develop such a product, Arturia's developers searched for a powerful processor to handle its complex modeling algorithms. They performed benchmark studies on FPGAs, a PowerPC, and a range of signal processors, including an ADSP-TS203S TigerSHARC® signal processor from Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI). The ADSP-TS203S TigerSHARC processor won hands down in terms of price/performance, and for its superior CPU clock cycle time. The other signal processors Arturia benchmarked were between two and three times lower cycle efficient.
Arturia's Origin Synthesizer
Pre-loaded with more than 40 modules extracted from the best synthesizers—Moog Modular, ARP 2600, CS-80, minimoog, and Prophet VS—Origin (Arturia's first hardware-based synthesizer) allows musicians to create many possibilities through combinations and an intuitive user interface. For example, one can combine the oscillators from the minimoog V with the filters from the CS-80 for a completely unique synthesizer. Origin comes with more than 500 presets developed by talented musicians and synthesizer specialists. And it enables up to 32 voices of polyphony per patch. For effects, the unit includes Phaser, Chorus, Delay, FX Reverb, Distortion, Param EQ, Compressor, and Bitcrusher.
These modules and sound effects are created with superb audio quality using Arturia's True Analog Emulation (TAE®) software engine, with the only difference being that the modeling algorithms reside in firmware in the physical unit (versus on a PC), and are driven by two ADI ADSP-TS203S TigerSHARC signal processors. Arturia's own benchmarks confirmed that the TigerSHARC processor had more power than even the newest multi-core PC processors. TigerSHARC processors provide the highest performance density for multiprocessing applications, with peak performance well above a billion floating-point operations per second. With TigerSHARC processors on board, Origin provides an incredibly warm and "phat" sound, offering the same polyphony of the company's highly renowned software-based virtual machines.
Origin can be used to play live on stage with a keyboard through the MIDI interface, or it can be used as a plug-in with a sequencer in the studio environment. In the studio, musicians open dedicated software on a Mac or PC, using the software as Audio Unit (AU) or Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plug-ins. The sounds are calculated on the Origin unit, freeing the studio computer for other tasks. The unit comes with an analog-style 16/32-step sequencer that enables musicians to build complex sequence patterns, which they can play back and edit very quickly for studio recording. Origin's physical specifications include MIDI In/Out/Thru interfaces, two analog audio inputs, 10 analog audio outputs, one digital output, and one USB 2.0 interface.
For live performances, the benefits of a hardware-based synthesizer include less latency, more stability, and a dedicated control interface. For the studio, a hardware-based system could handle the algorithm processing and off-load the computer. But before Arturia's developers would move their modeling algorithms from software to firmware, they had to find an affordable signal processor that featured high computational efficiency and large on-chip memory. The ADSP-TS203S TigerSHARC processor was just the ticket. An ultra-high performance superscalar processor optimized for large signal processing tasks, the ADSP-TS203S TigerSHARC processor operates at 500 MHz with a 2.0 ns instruction cycle time, and comes with 4M bits of on-chip DRAM memory.
The processor architecture includes compute blocks that can execute computations either independently or together as a single-instruction multiple-data (SIMD) engine. The result is a signal processing engine that can perform 40-bit MACs or one billion, 80-bit MACs per second. It performs exceptionally well on signal processing algorithm and I/O benchmarks. As previously mentioned, Arturia conducted its own benchmarks and was impressed with TigerSHARC's CPU clock ratio. The processor's internal memory was also twice what they could get with other signal processors.
For I/O, the processor integrates an interrupt controller; four 128-bit internal data busses, each connecting to the four 1M bit memory banks; a 10-channel DMA controller; two full-duplex Low-Voltage, Differential-Signal (LVDS) link ports; an SDRAM controller; programmable flag pins; two 64-bit interval timers, a timer expired pin; and an external port (which interfaces to host processors, multiprocessing space, off-chip memory-mapped peripherals, and external SRAM/SDRAM). It also offers a JTAG test access port for on-chip emulation.
Arturia leveraged both of the TigerSHARC's link ports for Origin. The link ports provide an optional communications channel that is useful in multiprocessor systems for implementing point-to-point inter-processor communications. Arturia used one of the link ports, operating at 125 MHz, to communicate with a Xilinx FPGA that mainly interfaces the master TigerSHARC with codecs and a micro-controller chip. The second link port, which operates at 250 MHz, is used to communicate between the master and slave TigerSHARC processors. Arturia also leveraged the SDRAM interface to store non-critical data and code.
To speed the development process, the company took advantage of ADI's VisualDSP++, project management environment that lets programmers develop and debug an application. This environment includes an easy-to-use assembler, an archiver, a linker, a loader, a cycle-accurate instruction-level simulator, a C/C++ compiler, and a C/C++ runtime library that includes signal processing and mathematical functions. In addition, the ADSP-TS203S TigerSHARC processor eases programming through its extremely flexible instruction set and high-level language-friendly signal processing architecture.
Thanks to TigerSHARC, Arturia can now offer musicians a true integration between hardware and software and all of the benefits that come with it. TigerSHARC was certainly a hit with the discerning engineers at Arturia—here's hoping many hit recordings will result from their choice in processors.
For more information, please visit Arturia.
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